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After a long and controversial campaign, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign’s demands became an official part of the MSU’s purchasing policy following last year’s General Assembly. However, one full term following the vote, the MSU and BDS McMaster have yet to produce a final list of companies to divest from.
The BDS movement identifies itself as a non-violent campaign that seeks to divest from all companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. The campaign was met with opposition from Israeli student groups, and garnered comments from the former Harper government condemning the movement and its policies as instances of hate crime. However, the BDS campaign at McMaster has been slightly revised, only boycotting companies involved in specific illegal settlements, and not all Israeli companies.
In mid-September, members of the BDS McMaster, a group of about 15 students along with about 200 volunteers, were tasked with forming a comprehensive purchasing list for the MSU. The current MSU vendors list is made up of almost 3,000 companies and individuals that the MSU both purchases and receives money from. Individual BDS members and volunteers researched about 200 different companies each, primarily using online search engines, and occasionally contacting companies to further inquire about their involvement in occupied territories. The estimated number of companies to be affected by the policy has not been finalized.
BDS McMaster group member Lina Kuffiyeh explained, “This list basically has everything and we have to spend so much time figuring out which companies we should boycott because the list is so huge.” Kuffiyeh expressed the desire for a smaller list from the university that excludes students that have given money to the MSU.
While there are no clear plans for future initiatives for the group, Kuffiyeh hopes that the enthusiasm for the campaign will continue after it has been fully implemented. “A lot of students take the BDS movement personally,” stated Kuffiyeh. “I know it’s personal to me because I still have family back home in Palestine who are directly targeted by the occupation so I hope it continues to resonate with students on campus. I also hope students realize that BDS isn’t just about Israeli occupation, it actually relates to a broader umbrella of ethical purchasing.”
The small group of BDS students are currently verifying the companies that are slated to be boycotted, while also juggling academic responsibilities. Members of the group are aiming to have the list completed by the end of the school term, or January at the latest.
Photo Credit: Alex Young